This must have been something to see in the fall of 1918. Ninety three officers, NCOs, and enlisted men of the French Foreign Legion arrive in New York to participate in one of the largest and most grandly promoted fund raising events for American’s fighting in Europe. It was the sales effort associated with the Fourth Liberty Bond offered on the 28th of September. Wiki says: A Liberty Bond was a war bond that was sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War I. Subscribing to the bonds became a symbol of patriotic duty in the United States and introduced the idea of financial securities to many citizens for the first time. The Act of Congress which authorized the Liberty Bonds is still used today as the authority under which all U.S. Treasury bonds are issued. The Fourth Liberty Loan offered $6 billion in bonds at 4.25 percent.
For the chosen men of this French Foreign Legion detachment it must have been quite a mind boggling experience. They were paraded in dozens of cities, toasted, celebrated and looked upon with awe by many Americans. To be fair there were other military forces who contributed detachments of their finest fighters to the same effort–French Mountain Troops (Blue Devils), Italian Alpini (slides 19-21), Brazilian Marines, and many American detachments. There were also captured German cannons and equipment brought out onto the streets for all to see. But the Legion seems have been quite the highlight for this promotion. Details about their greatest battles were provided to the public and displays of their awards for valor (of which many were proudly worn by each legionnaire) accompanied their arrival . It was said that some Legionnaires were still recouping from injuries on the battlefield. In fact, tragically, one Legion NCO died of Spanish Flu in Kansas City while on tour (see slide 8 for interesting details on this). I wonder what their free time was like–imagine twenty of them walking into an Irish bar in New York looking for something to quench their thirst and asking where the cat house is. This event was interesting to put together–most of the news came from NY Times and Google News Archive and most of the pictures came from the Library of Congress (and a couple of other places I cannot remember).